Tuesday, December 26, 2023

2023.12.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 108:1–6

Read Psalm 108:1–6

Questions from the Scripture text: What does this Psalm title itself (superscript)? Whose Psalm is it? Whom does it first address (Psalm 108:1a)? What does it call Him? To what of the psalmist does it refer? What is the condition of his heart? What two things does he say that he will do (verse 1b)? With what? What does he awaken in Psalm 108:2a? What does he call upon to awaken (verse 2b)? Now what does he call God (Psalm 108:3a)? With whom does he offer this covenantal praise? How does verse 3b emphasize this last declaration? For what two attributes does this great assembly praise YHWH (Psalm 108:4)? How great is His covenant love (“mercy” in verse 4a)? How great is His faithfulness (“truth” in verse 4b)? What does Psalm 108:5a petition God to do? How highly? What, in particular, does the psalmist desire that God would exalt (verse 5b)? How highly? In order to do what for whom (Psalm 108:6a)? What does the beloved need (verse 6b)? What metaphor (anthropomorphism) does the psalmist use for requesting that God would do this personally and powerfully? In response to whom?

How can believers cope with trouble and the feeling that God has cast them off? Psalm 108:1–6 prepares us for the opening portion of public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that believers cope with trouble by praising the God for Whom they were made, in anticipation of the praising assembly for which they were redeemed. 

We’re not getting to Psalm 108:11-12 until next week, so we need to remember the situation of hardship (and perceived rejection by God) from which the Psalm is written. As the Spirit carries David along, He gives us a lesson in applying the refrain from Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:11, Psalm 43:5. When our soul is cast down and disquieted, we must address it to find its hope in God. We must embrace the certainty that we, who were created and redeemed to glorify and enjoy Him, will surely “yet praise Him.” 

That is what the Psalmist is doing in these six verses: looking to the future in which the full redeemed assembly and all creation are praising Him (Psalm 108:1-3),  lifting our hearts to praise Him as He is in Himself (Psalm 108:4), and praising and praying for how His attributes are expressed in His dealings with His saints (Psalm 108:5-6).

Taking our place in congregation and creationPsalm 108:1-3Psalm 108:1b is interesting in light of Psalm 108:11-12. David (and the nation) has been brought low. But, he is remembering also that the Lord exalted him, lifting him from shepherding sheep in the countryside to throne of Israel. What do we have that we have not received? If it is little, then it is for the praise of God. If it is much, then how much more we ought to possess it with humility as we offer it to the praise of God! And so David is determined that all that he is would be offered unto God in praise. 

You should be determined to do so, too. Whatever He has done in you, whatever He has given to you, offer it to Him in a life of praise, and come to Him with all that you are whenever you are gathered in the assembly to praise. Maintain a steadfast heart to praise Him by taking your mindset from His Word rather than from your flesh (Psalm 108:1a).

Don’t settle for individual praise. David was highly invested in corporate worship. The great focus of his later years was gathering resources for the building of the temple (cf. 1 Chronicles 22–26, 1 Chronicles 28–29). Among those resources were the assignments of priestly families as musicians (1 Chronicles 25) so that the stringed instruments that we see in the Psalms (and metaphorically in places like revelation) emphasize not just singing to God generally, but the singing of the corporate assembly, specifically. It looked forward to a time where Christ Himself would be the temple (cf. John 2:21), together with His assembly (1 Peter 2:4–5). And, Christ Himself would be the great Musician, Who both sings through His people, and accompanies the singing, not by instrument-strings, but melodies that are played upon heart-strings (cf. Ephesians 5:19, cp. Colossians 3:16). 

 “Awake, lute and harp!” expresses a widening David’s of desire and intention, from private worship in Psalm 108:1b, to public (corporate) worship in Psalm 108:2a. Indeed, he is looking forward to that corporate worship that will include all of the peoples (Psalm 108:3a) and all of the nations (verse 3b). He is looking forward to the day that he will be a member of an innumerable multitude from all the nations—not just something like Revelation 4–5, but the final assembly. We will be there one day, dear believing reader. The whole assembly, not one elect soul missing, resurrected—the temple that has been constructed in Jesus, that whole every-believer priesthood, singing with grace-perfected hearts and glorious bodies!

Even now, we get to taste it a little bit every Lord’s Day. There, we are in an assembly of God’s people from several nations. There, we admonish one another with His Word in song, and enjoy the reality of His grace accompanying it in our hearts. There, we participate by faith with that Hebrews 12:22–24 assembly in glory. And, there, we anticipate the great worship assembly to come. David looks forward to the same in Psalm 108:3, and in Psalm 108:2b, where he remembers that praise is the purpose of the creation itself (cf. Psalm 19:1–6).

When things are hard, we can reason with our souls about how all of this ends (cf. Psalm 42–43). And to help us do so, we can lay hold of the means of grace that is prayer and call upon God’s Name with reference to that end!

Worshiping God’s glory in His characterPsalm 108:4. YHWH’s covenant love (verse 4a) and faithfulness (verse 4b) are a merism for the totality of His glorious character. “Abounding in goodness and truth” at the end of Exodus 34:6, which John coopts for describing Jesus as the full revelation of God to us (John 1:14, John 1:17–18), is actually these two attributes in Psalm 108:4. He directs the attention of his heart above the heavens and the clouds to God Himself, and God alone. What a help there is for a believer’s encouragement, a believer’s praising, a believer’s praying, in the contemplation of God Himself in Himself! 

You may know that old “turn your eyes upon Jesus” chorus; with an important modification, it is genuinely true in the life of a believer. Not so much that the things of earth “grow strangely dim,” but that the solution to a lack of perspective is to zoom out, out, out, out. Soon, we can see that the infinity of God Himself never gets smaller as we zoom out. Rather, we come to see all our circumstances in the context of Him Himself. His character becomes the great thing in all existence. 

How often we need this perspective! And what a blessing it is to come to Him, by faith, in praise, to gain it: to feast our hearts upon our God and His perfections. They are never in conflict. Not one of them every flickers or diminishes in the slightest. He never stops being fully Who He is, regardless of our circumstances. And it is in beholding Him in Himself that we are then prepared to consider Him in relation to our circumstances, and consider our circumstances in relation to Him.

Worshiping God’s glory in His work—especially His redeeming workPsalm 108:5-6. In the final two verses of our portion for this week, the psalmist takes the perspective in Psalm 108:4, and zooms back in to his own situation. Psalm 108:5a corresponds to Psalm 108:4a in scope, but now the glory in Psalm 108:5b is above all the earth, and the request in Psalm 108:6 comes all the way down to the psalmist’s own circumstances and the psalmist’s own voice. 

The attributes of God feature prominently, even in Psalm 108:6. By referring to God’s people as “Your beloved,” he highlights that attribute of God, but now in connection with His people. We do not always feel that we are beloved—especially when it seems that God has “cast us off” (cf. Psalm 108:11a). This word itself would have been precious to David, as he had given this nickname to Solomon in response to the prophetic word concerning his son (cf. 2 Samuel 12:24–25).  He is laying hold of this attribute of God—in accord with God’s previous expression of it in his life. What joy there is for you, dear believer, when you can speak of yourself as “beloved” of God—not (at first) because you feel or perceive it, but because He is love, and He has declared it!

To love, he adds justice by speaking of “being delivered,” something that is connected in Scripture especially with the attribute of God’s justice. To justice, he adds power, asking to be saved by “Your right hand” (Psalm 108:6b)—an anthropomorphism emphasizing God’s power. Finally, he closes with the same attribute as in Psalm 108:4b: God’s faithfulness. “Hear me” (literally, “answer me”) depends upon God to honor, in His faithfulness, the covenant bond that He has made between His people and Himself  (cf. Psalm 65:1–2). 

In Psalm 108:5-6, David’s faith keeps its view fixed firmly upon God, but now with respect to His actions on earth. If our hearts are cast down and discouraged, let us remember the worshiping end for which the Lord has created and redeemed us, and let us praise Him for His glorious attributes in Himself, and let us praise Him for His expression of those attributes in the work by which He brings us to our end. He is worthy of this praise, and He uses the praise itself to gladden and strengthen our hearts. Won’t you praise Him? And won’t you look to His Spirit to bring that praise specifically into times of discouragement and times of trouble?

What discouraging trouble have you been enduring? How can you implement the Psalm 42–43 method of addressing your own soul in discouragement? How can you prepare your mind and heart for such an opportunity? How can you implement the Psalm 108:1–6 method of addressing God in trouble? How can you prepare your mind/heart for it?

Sample prayer:  O God, our heart is steadfast! We will sing and give praise with all that we are and all that we have. Your assembly gathers to praise You, even as all creation exists to praise You! We look forward to that final, great assembly with all the nations, where we will praise You,. Your covenant love and faithfulness are greater than all creations, and You glorify Yourself in saving Your beloved. Now come, help Your beloved, to worship You. Answer us, we ask, through Christ, AMEN! 

 Suggested songs: ARP108A “God, My Heart Is Steadfast” or TPH108 “My Heart Is Steadfast, God!”

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